Friday, April 30, 2010

Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster did not believe that the public good would ever be served apart from Christianity. As he reminded one public gathering, “Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”

Daniel Webster was another of the great leaders here at the Capitol who was outspoken about Christianity both in private and in public and who has received special recognition in the Capitol both with paintings and with a statue in Statuary Hall.

As a final note on National Statuary Hall, in addition to the statues of Ethan Allen, Lew Wallace, and Daniel Webster already discussed, there are numerous other statues commemorating the lives and accomplishments of many famous Christians, including those of missionary and pioneer trailblazer Marcus Whitman with Bible under his arm, missionary Junipero Serra with cross held high, and numerous others.

In the House Connecting Corridor just beyond Statuary Hall are additional statues, including one of Jonathan Trumbull. However, this is not the John Trumbull who painted the pictures in the Rotunda nor is this the Colonel Jonathan Trumbull whose religious proclamation was presented earlier. Rather, this is the father of them both.

This Jonathan Trumbull was the only governor of the thirteen States to serve in that capacity throughout the entire Revolution. He probably did more than any other single individual to supply men, munitions, and materials to General George Washington. In fact, he became one of Washington’s closest friends and confidants; Washington called him “Brother Jonathan”; and whenever he needed counsel or a listening ear, it was to Governor Trumbull he turned.

Jonathan Trumbull had not planned to be a governor, or for that matter, to have a military or political career. Originally, he had studied for the ministry and had served as a preacher of the Gospel. But when his State (Connecticut) asked him to serve as governor, he did not refuse. He held that post for fourteen years, and as soon as the Revolution was over and the peace treaty with Great Britain was signed, he resigned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Limits of Civil Authority

Daniel Webster developed his love for penknives at an early age. In fact, Master James Tappan, one of Daniel’s first schoolteachers, told the story of how Daniel received his first penknife:

Daniel was always the brightest boy in the school. . . . He would learn more in five minutes than any other boy in five hours. . . . One Saturday, I remember, I held up a handsome new jack-knife to the scholars and said the boy who would commit to memory the greatest number of verses in the Bible by Monday morning should have it. Many of the boys did well; but when it came to Daniel’s turn to recite, I found that he had committed so much [to memory] that after hearing him repeat some sixty or seventy verses, I was obliged to give up, he telling me [still] that there were several chapters yet that he had learned. Daniel got that jack-knife.

Daniel Webster learned early to love the Bible, and his love for that Book never waned. In fact, on the Fourth of July, 1851, the year before his death, Webster stood just outside the Capitol on its east side and delivered the speech at the laying of the cornerstone for the additions to the Capitol that have now become the current chambers for the House and the Senate. Speaking to the thousands gathered there at the Capitol that day, Webster summed up not only what he had believed throughout his life but also what he believed must continue to be part of America’s public policy. He explained:

Man is not only an intellectual but he is also a religious being, and his religious feelings and habits require cultivation. Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected – let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority – and he becomes the creature of selfish passion or blind fanaticism. The spectacle of a nation [France], powerful and enlightened, but without Christian faith, has been presented . . . as a warning beacon for the nations. On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness, incites to general benevolence and the practical acknowledgment of the brotherhood of man, inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Old Senate Chamber

As a famous orator, Webster believed that to become a great orator one must study the Word of God. In fact, he regularly practiced his own oratory by reciting the Bible aloud.

There are wonderful anecdotal accounts of visitors gathering just to listen to Daniel Webster read the Bible. 46 They seemed to enjoy especially his readings from the book of Job, for Webster would read that book as if he actually were Job – or one of Job’s friends. And when Webster read chapter 38 (when God entered the debate), Webster’s voice would thunder and boom, and it seemed as if the doors would rattle off their hinges as he recited the words spoken by the Almighty! Charles Lanman, Webster’s personal Senate secretary, recalled:

We well remember his quotation of some of the verses in the thirty-eighth chapter [of Job]: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding,”. Mr. Webster was a fine reader, and his recitation of particular passages which he admired was never surpassed and was capable of giving the most exquisite delight to those who could appreciate them.

The Old Senate Chamber is where Daniel Webster gave nearly two decades of public service. One of his original artifacts still at the Capitol is his old Senate desk.

That desk is no longer in the Old Senate Chamber because it is still in use today in the current Senate Chamber. (By agreement, the senior Senator from New Hampshire – the State of Webster’s birth – is al lowed to use the original desk.) However, at the time Webster served in the Senate, he used his desk in the Old Senate Chamber. In the bottom of his desk, Webster took a penknife and inscribed his name, and many of those who used his desk after him followed this precedent.

Friday, April 9, 2010

America's Godly Heritage by David Barton

Silas Deane, also a member of that Congress, declared that it was “a prayer . . . worth riding one hundred mile to hear” 3 (i.e., that it was worth spending three days on horseback to arrive in time for that prayer), and that as a result of that prayer, “even Quakers shed tears.” 4 Additionally, the Congress read from four chapters in the Bible that morning, and as John Adams reported to his wife, Abigail, one particular chapter especially impacted the group:

I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on the morning. . . . I must beg you to read that Psalm. . . . [Read] the 35th Psalm to [your friends]. Read it to your father. 5 (Numerous other delegates also commented on that profound time of prayer and Bible study. 6 )

After meeting the first year in Carpenters’ Hall, the Continental Congress then moved to Independence Hall, which served as its home for the next several years. From the Continental Congress came many of our famous Founding Fathers, great national leaders, military generals, and U. S. Presidents. In fact, America’s first four Presidents all served in Congress in Independence Hall.

An interesting anecdote involving one of those four occurred in 1777. John Adams of Massachusetts, who went on to become America’s second president, became close friends with Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia while serving in Congress, and both signed the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Rush, known as the “Father of American Medicine,” had been appointed by Congress as the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and in 1777, he traveled to the different battlefield hospitals, helping the wounded and monitoring the medical conditions before returning to Congress.

At that point in the American Revolution, things were not going particularly well: America was losing many more battles than it was winning. With such a bleak prospect of success, Dr. Rush leaned over to John Adams and candidly asked if he thought that America could actually win the Revolution. Adams’ answer was clear and unequivocal.

He confidently replied:

Yes! – if we fear God and repent of our sins! 7 This account, unknown to most Americans today, was characteristic of the tone so often manifested within Independence Hall. In fact, during the American Revolution the Continental Congress issued fifteen separate prayer proclamations calling the nation to times of prayer and fasting, or prayer and thanksgiving (depending on the circumstances at that time); 8 those proclamations were characterized by overtly Christian language.

In 1787, Independence Hall served as home to the body that eventually produced the U. S. Constitution. Yet, few today know that virtually every one of the fifty-five Founding Fathers who framed the Constitution were members of orthodox Christian churches 9 and that many were outspoken evangelicals.

Many assume that the term “evangelicals” is a modern descriptor, but such is not the case. Webster’s original 1828 dictionary defined “evangelical” as “consonant to the doctrines and precepts of the gospel published by Christ and His apostles; sound in the doctrines of the gospel; orthodox.” Modern definitions have changed little, currently meaning “belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament . . . and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ.” Therefore, whether using the old or the new definition, numbers of the Founding Fathers do indeed conform to the appellation “evangelical.”

Similarly, few today know that of the fifty six Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration in Independence Hall in 1776, over half had received degrees from schools that today would be considered seminaries or Bible schools. 11 In fact, it was signers of the Declaration of Independence who started the Sunday School movement as well as several Bible societies and missionary societies. They were also responsible for penning numerous religious works and publishing many famous Bibles, including one by signer John Witherspoon in 1791, 12 another by Charles Thomson in 1808 13 (Thomson and John Hancock were the only two individuals to sign the Declaration on July 4, 1776; on August 2, the others signed the famous copy so familiar today), and one by Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1812. 14 In fact, a famous 1782 Bible directly connected to Independence Hall is an important part of America’s Godly heritage.

Friday, April 2, 2010

America's Godly Heritage by David Barton

Does America really have a Godly heritage? It definitely does, and abundant proof of this fact is available in tens of thousands of historic documents. In fact, copious evidence is readily visible in a consideration of the individuals and incidents in and around just one small building:

Independence Hall in Philadelphia – the birthplace of American liberty and the origin of American constitutional government In that building on July 2, 1776, the Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress voted to approve a complete separation from Great Britain; on July 4th, they approved the Declaration of Independence; and on July 8th, they carried the Declaration outside Independence Hall, read it to the assembled crowd, and then rang the Liberty Bell. Most citizens assume that the famous bell derives its name from the fact that it rang when America announced its liberty, but such is not the case. It is called the Liberty Bell because of the Biblical inscription from Leviticus 25 Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.

Next door to Independence Hall is Carpenters’ Hall – the building in which the first American Congress met. In 1774, forty of America’s leading statesmen from across the thirteen colonies (including luminaries such as Patrick Henry, John Adams, George Washington, John Jay, Samuel Adams, and many others) met in that Hall to prepare for the approaching conflict with Great Britain.

That Congress opened with prayer, but according to historical records, it was not a superficial prayer like might be prayed in a public gathering today. To the contrary, it was a profound time of prayer led by the Rev. Jacob Duché, a local minister from nearby Christ Church.Christ Church is where many of the Founding Fathers worshipped, and where seven signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried: Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, James Wilson, Francis Hopkinson, Joseph Hewes, and George Ross. So many Founders worshipped at Christ Church that around 1910, a famous stained glass window (now called "Patriot’s Window") was added, showing many of the Founders and famous Americans attending church there, including: patriots’ window with the congregation worshpping in 1790. in the front row is robert morris and his children, white and harrison; in the aisle to the left is francis hopkinson and his son; in the second row is george and martha washington, alexander hamilton, and betsy ross; in the third row is benjamin rush and joseph hopkinson; in the fourth row is john penn and his family, and in the fifth row is benjamin franklin and his daughter, sarah

• Robert Morris and his family (Morris was one of the elite group of six Founding Fathers who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution);

• George Washington and his wife, Martha;• Alexander Hamilton (a signer of the Constitution and an author of the Federalist Papers);

•Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration and the "Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution");• Joseph Hopkinson(a federal judge and a constitutional attorney who was the son of Declaration signer Francis Hopkinson);

• Francis Hopkinson and his family(Hopkinson was a signer of the Declaration and an early federal judge appointed by President George Washington);• John Penn and his family (Penn was the grandson of Pennsylvania founder William Penn and was a governor of Pennsylvania before the Revolution); and

• Benjamin Franklin and his daughter, Sarah (Franklin is another of the six who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution; he was also Governor of Pennsylvania)